3 Malaysians win land­mark court case to cross-dress

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - WORLD - As­so­ci­ated Press let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

KUALA LUMPUR: Three Malaysian Mus­lim transgenders on Fri­day won a land­mark court rul­ing against a re­li­gious law ban­ning them from cross-dress­ing in what ac­tivists called a vic­tory for hu­man rights in a con­ser­va­tive South­east Asian na­tion.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Ap­peals unan­i­mously ruled that the Shariah law in Negeri Sem­bi­lan state was dis­crim­i­na­tory as it failed to rec­og­nize men di­ag­nosed with gen­der iden­tity is­sues. It said the law de­prived transgenders of “the right to live with dig­nity.”

“This is de­grad­ing, op­pres­sive and in­hu­mane,” said Judge Mo­hamad Hisham­mud­din Mo­hamad Yunus. Hisham­mud­din said the Is­lamic law was aimed at curb­ing ho­mo­sex­ual and les­bian ac­tiv­i­ties that led to the spread of HIV. The present case “has noth­ing to do with ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity,” but was about Mus­lim men with a med­i­cal con­di­tion, he added.

A lower court dis­missed the case in 2012, say­ing the three transgenders must ad­here to Is­lamic law be­cause they were Mus­lim and born male. The three, who have been cer­ti­fied by doc­tors to have gen­der iden­tity is­sues, ap­pealed the decision.

The state’s Is­lamic Re­li­gious Depart­ment could still ap­peal the rul­ing at the top Fed­eral Court, although it wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear if it plans to do so.

As­ton Paiva, a lawyer for the three peo­ple, said the rul­ing will have wide Im­pli­ca­tions for Mus­lim transgenders in the coun­try. It sets a prece­dent for high courts, which must follow the rul­ing if other Mus­lim transgenders chal­lenge sim­i­lar Is­lamic law in other states, he said, call­ing the case “his­toric.”


Trans­gen­der ac­tivists cel­e­brate out­side the Court of Ap­peals in Pu­tra­jaya after the rul­ing on Fri­day.

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